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Changing the culture of medicine: Integrating complementary and alternative medicine

Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, Georgetown University, 1312 18th Street, NW, Fifth Floor, Washington, DC 20036, 202-467-0816, fughberman@aol.com

Health care practices called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in North America are the most commonly used methods of healing in other parts of the world. Traditional medicine is a more appropriate term than CAM where these therapies are used as primary medical care. The wide use of traditional medicine use should not be romanticized, however, where there is a lack of options: much of the developing world has no access to expensive pharmaceuticals.

The United States is a long way from integration of the best of conventional and CAM therapies, largely because of our profit-driven health care system. Some CAM treatments are more popular as spa treatments than as medical treatments, and many complementary therapies remain inaccessible to low-income people. Traditional medicine may be affordable within specific ethnic communities but can be very expensive when provided to, or by, outsiders to those communities.

The culture of medicine will have to change before complementary and alternative medicine is integrated with conventional medicine. This also may not happen until the profit motive is removed from health care services. For example, herbs and dietary supplements cannot be patented and thus cannot be as profitable as drugs. Effective herbal medicines, mind-body therapies , and other CAM treatments will not be prescribed as long as doctors receive most of their education from pharmaceutical companies.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant (learner) in this session will be able to

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Access to Care: Diverse Needs of Diverse Women

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA